DETROIT – After a bitterly disappointing Week 1 tie, the Detroit Lions return to Ford Field to face the Los Angeles Chargers.
This looks like a tough matchup for the Lions as the 1-0 Chargers are regarded as one of the NFL's better teams.
Looking back at last week, the Lions and Chargers had similar Week 1 games. Both teams were winning late in the game before giving up a touchdown and game tying two-point conversion to send the game to overtime – although the Chargers were able to win in OT.
Let's look at LA's key players and some headlines going into the game before talking about what the Lions must do to win.
Phillip Rivers, QB (#17): This is Rivers' 16th NFL season, but he's still slinging it just as well as anyone in the NFL. He ranks fifth in career passing yards among active quarterbacks.
Austin Ekeler, RB (#30): Week 1 showed exactly why the Chargers believe in Ekeler as a feature running back. He had 154 total yards and three touchdowns, including the game winner in overtime. A short, speedy back, the Chargers want to get Ekeler the ball in space, either on outside runs or screen passes. He's tough to bring down and will be a matchup problem for the Lions' defense.
Keenan Allen, WR (#13): Allen has been one of the NFL's most productive receivers the last few years. He entered this season after back-to-back years of 95-plus catches and over 1,100 yards. In Week 1 he had 8 catches for 123 yards and a touchdown.
Justin Jackson, RB (#22): Big Ten fans might remember Jackson from his Northwestern days – and he runs just as hard now as he did in college. The Chargers like to bring him in as a change of pace, and often run him between the tackles.
Virgil Green, TE (#88): Green is being thrust into the starting tight end spot after LA's number one tight end Hunter Henry suffered a leg injury that will leave him out for weeks. In Week 1, Green caught just one pass for four yards, as he's more of a blocking tight end.
Joey Bosa, DE (#99): Bosa is a problem at defensive end. He gets consistent pressure on pass rushes and can take over a game all by himself. The Lions are going to have to scheme against stopping him, or at least work around him.
Melvin Ingram, DE (#54): On the other side of the Chargers' defensive line is an equally talented pass rusher in Melvin Ingram. Stopping Bosa and Ingram is another difficult assignment for the Lions' offensive line.
Desmond King, CB (#20): King, who is from Detroit and played his high school ball at East English Village Prep, is one of LA's better pass defenders. He's also a very good punt and kick returner. Last season, he was named an All-Pro on both defense and special teams.
Thomas Davis, LB (#58): Veteran Thomas Davis signed with the Chargers in the offseason from the Carolina Panthers. He had 14 tackles in Week 1 and brings physicality and leadership to LA's defense.
Adrian Phillips, S (#31): Phillips is one of the guys tasked with filling Derwin James' role. He'll play near the line of scrimmage like a linebacker and balance stopping the run and covering receivers.
Week 2 headlines
Star players sidelined: The Chargers are missing RB Melvin Gordon, S Derwin James, TE Hunter Henry and T Russell Okung. They're also shorthanded at cornerback and WR Mike Williams is battling an injury he picked up in Week 1.
The Lions are missing LB Jarrad Davis and DE Dashawn Hand but are hoping they can get them back for Week 2. Seeing them back on the field would really help the Lions' defense in slowing down Rivers and Ekeler.
Under pressure: Both the Lions and Chargers struggled to protect their quarterbacks from pressure in Week 1. It doesn't get any easier for the Lions in facing the talented pass rush of the Chargers.
On the other side, the Chargers gave up four sacks in Week 1, partly because they're undermanned on the offensive line. That's something the Lions will want to take advantage of.
Quarterback play: Both teams' quarterbacks played great despite staring down pressure all game. Phillip Rivers went 25-34 for 333 yards and three touchdowns. Other than one late interception in the end zone, he had a stellar game, including leading the game winning drive in overtime.
For the Lions, Stafford went 27-45 with 385 and three touchdowns. He made some great plays, was able to avoid some of the pressure with his feet and looked comfortable in the Lions' new offense. It was an encouraging start for him and the Lions' offense.
Ground game: While they have a great pass rush, Los Angeles struggled to get a push on the ground and stop the run in Week 1. Colts RB Marlon Mack rushed for 174 yards with the Colts running for 203 yards overall.
That's good news for the Lions, who hope to get their own run game going after not doing a whole lot last week. The team rushed for 100 yards overall but the Lions' offensive line and running backs couldn't get into a rhythm to help the Lions finish off the game in the second half.
Special teams: Both teams struggled a bit here in Week 1. Chargers' returner Desmond King muffed a punt inside his own 20-yard line, giving the Colts an extra possession that turned into three points.
One bright spot for the Chargers and something to keep an eye on is punter/kicker Ty Long. He was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week after making a field goal and two extra points and having a couple of nice punts in his first career NFL game.
For the Lions, Jamal Agnew also muffed a punt deep in his own territory that turned into points. He didn't look like himself on any of the returns he had.
The Lions also had a punt partially blocked at a critical moment of the game, which is something to watch this week because the Chargers were able to block a punt in Week 1.
Home field advantage: Last week we talked about how the Lions had to fly across the country and play in an unfamiliar environment. This week, the Chargers are in that spot. LA is flying in a day earlier than normal to combat the three-hour time change.
What Detroit must do to win
If the Lions can replicate a lot of the good things they did last week, they can beat the Chargers.
One thing the Lions need to do is establish more of a running game. If the Lions can run the ball effectively, that will open things for Stafford in the passing game against LA's shorthanded secondary.
On defense, the Lions need to contain Austin Ekeler and stop Rivers from connecting with Keenan Allen for big plays.